“Ten Books for Christmas” has become an annual tradition. I read a lot and love to recommend books to others. So, why not share? Here are my favorite books for Christmas and the new year approaching. They are not always religious but they are interesting. The list is in no particular order. With each book there is information provided by Amazon.com followed by, “Why I like this book.”

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. In this enchanting sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom tells the story of Eddie’s heavenly reunion with Annie—the little girl he saved on earth—in an unforgettable novel of how our lives and losses intersect. The accident that killed Eddie left an indelible mark on Annie. It took her left hand, which needed to be surgically reattached. Injured, scarred, and unable to remember why, As the novel opens, Annie is marrying Paulo. But when her wedding night day ends in an unimaginable accident, Annie finds herself on her own heavenly journey—and an inevitable reunion with Eddie, one of the five people who will show her how her life mattered in ways she could not have fathomed.

Why I like this book: “Forcing love is like picking a flower then insisting that it grow.” This is at the heart of Mitch Albom’s writing. Life, disappointment, heartbreak and tragedy often serve to introduce us to a different way of looking at love, through the eyes of heaven. In this sequel, Mitch helps us explore an age-old question: If you knew you were about to die, how would you spend your final hours?” “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven” begins with a tragedy. Annie was miraculously rescued in the first book but has experienced many difficulties since. She dies in a tragic accident which leads to her being escorted on a heavenly journey where she meets five people who will show her how despite the hardships experienced, her life mattered. This is a book you should read and give as a gift to everyone you care for.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Why I like this book: “I never spent more than a few hours in a city and found it impossible to defend myself from the strange noises that constantly invaded. The chirrup of crosswalk signals, the shrieking of sirens, the hissing of air brakes, even the hushed chatter of people strolling on the sidewalk. My ears, accustomed to the silence of the peak, felt battered by them.” What’s it like to grow up in an isolated, rural environment with no education but somehow make it to college and graduate school? What’s it like to grow up in an abusive family environment and carry that baggage with you throughout your adult life? Educated is not an easy book to read but Tara’s story contains a raw and brutally honest portrait of family life that will never become a Hallmark movie but needs to be heard.

Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring by Henri J.M. Nouwen. One of the best-loved spiritual writers of our time—an author ranked with C.S. Lewis and Thomas Merton—Henry J.M. Nowuen, takes a moving, personal look at human mortality in Our Greatest Gift. A meditation on dying and caring, Our Greatest Gift gently and eloquently reveals the gifts that the living and dying can give to one another. The beloved bestselling author of With Open Hands, The Wounded Healer, and Making All Things New shares his own experiences with aging, loss, grief, and fear in this important and life-altering work.

Why I like this book: “As I have seen Martha prepare herself for her death, I have gradually realized that she is making her own dying a gift for others…. Having taught all her life, she now teaches us through preparation for death.” Most of us don’t think too deeply about dying. Yet death is something all of us face eventually. Why is this important? Henri Nouwen writes: “Whenever we claim our gift of caring and choose to embrace not only our own mortality but also other people’s, we can become a true source of healing and hope.”

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More than Anything You can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders. In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy–only keeping her from meeting her goals–she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year. The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt. Blending Cait’s compelling story with inspiring insight and practical guidance, The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life–and, quite possibly, lead you to find your own path of less.

Why I like this book: “I didn’t have all the answers yet. I never had the answers, when I started one of my experiments. I also didn’t know that I would document so much of it on my blog.” This book is not just a “how to” save money by doing less shopping book. “The Year of Less” is more a personal journey that happens to include financial challenges of a young adult surviving and at times thriving in an often complex and confusing environment. It’s one thing to set a goal of ending shopping. It’s quite another to live within that goal day by day. As Cait learned to live with less, she also experienced new opportunities that would not be possible without her newfound discipline.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt. Learn from an entrepreneur who pitches his start-ups by highlighting the reasons not to invest, a woman at Apple who challenged Steve Jobs from three levels below, an analyst who overturned the rule of secrecy at the CIA, a billionaire financial wizard who fires employees for failing to criticize him, and a TV executive who didn’t even work in comedy but saved Seinfeld from the cutting-room floor. The payoff is a set of groundbreaking insights about rejecting conformity and improving the status quo.

Why I like this book: “We live in a world where most people accept the defaults in our lives. The hallmark of originality is not as much about having a special gift as it is in rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists.” What Originals accomplishes is to help me understand that I can make a difference not because I am especially creative so much as I see a need for change, have a desire to influence change and take the initiative to work for change. In other words, anyone can be an original, anyone. That’s an important lesson.

Next week: Five more books to recommend. Meanwhile, send me your comments or suggestions for other books to: LarryDavies@PrayWithYou.org